by Victor Davis Hanson
Rendezvous with Reality
There are a number of issues on the horizon that cannot simply be hoped and changed away or dismissed with the now accustomed ‘hit the reset’ button/’Bush did it’ throw-away line.
Take illegal immigration. There were always two redlines in the debate.
For conservatives it was the improbable notion that they were going to deport 12-20 million illegal aliens en masse — a mass exodus along the lines of partition between Pakistan and India.
Amnesty or Deportation?
It was easy to damn “amnesty” — given its serial history of only encouraging more illegal immigration. But the trick was always coming up with something less drastic instead like “earned citizenship,” that culled out through deportation felons, and recent arrivals, while allowing the crime-free, long residing, and hard-working to pay some sort of nominal fine for breaking the law even as they applied for citizenship. I doubt this is what is meant by the euphemism “comprehensive immigration reform,” but it is a workable idea when coupled with an end to federally-mandated bilingual documents and interpreters, and salad-bowl state-mandated ethnic separatism.
In other words, we say to the illegal alien: if you are working, if you have not committed a crime after arriving here illegally, and if you are willing to stay in a country that makes no special allowances for those who speak languages other than English or who claim some privileged ethnic heritage, then, yes, you can find a path to citizenship involving fines for your initial crime of breaking the law, and necessary background checks and testing of basic acquaintance with American citizenship. Such earned citizenship will fail of course, unless the border is closed through walls, increased patrolling, employer sanctions, and a change of popular attitudes about illegality; otherwise the process becomes serial, as it was in the past, and news of its magnanimity only encourages more to get northward A.S.A.P.
For liberals, the no-go area was always open borders, or the Mexifornian notion that national borders mattered little, and if most cities ended up like Los Angeles (the world’s second largest city of Mexican nationals), then all to the good, given the likely future voting propensities of today’s alien/tomorrow’s Democrat. It was always lethal for a Democratic politician to mount the podium at one of those crazy Cinco de Mayo marches where Mexican flags and Che placards outnumbered red, white, and blue, as the crowd shouted “The borders crossed us!” or (my favorite) “Get over it! We’re here to stay!” (Lately some astute Democratic consultants have ensured Old Glory is in front of the cameras and the more La Raza sloganeering at the rear of the crowd.)
That said, at least three new developments have altered calculus of the recent immigration debate — and in ways Obama probably does not appreciate.
First, the daily grind of televised killings, gruesome torture, and kidnapping along the border is spilling into the American Southwest. The mayhem and police corruption are reminding more and more Americans why it is a bad idea to allow such lawlessness to filter into the U.S. If illegal immigration is unchecked and assimilation caricatured, then why would not the carnage simply be replanted north of the border?
Jobs, Jobs, and No Jobs!
Second, we are in a recession with unemployment hitting 10% in many of the states of the American southwest. Allowing another million illegal aliens annually to enter the U.S. will only further depress wages — and mean that laid-off American workers have no recourse to unskilled day jobs to tide them through. Those who used to loiter around Home Depot lots in California looking for a day’s cash job of building fences or hauling away trash used to be exclusively illegal aliens, now not readily so.
The Flu Panic
Third, the much hyped swine flu epidemic, despite the media hysteria, reinforces the perception to Americans that they share a porous border with a third-world country, from which at any time infectious disease can break out and spread northward. Again, I’m dealing here with perceptions, not always reality. I once told a friend in Palo Alto that it was not uncommon in my children’s school to find children of aliens from Mexico with tuberculosis exposure; he laughed and suggested that it was illiberal to even suggest such a thing. But I’m sure that soccer moms of his environs would be the first to turn reactionary should it happen that recent arrivals were infected with swine flu and in the same classrooms with their own future Vassar and Yale-bound toddlers.
Obama may wish to pander to the Hispanic vote and ease up on border enforcement, but popular sentiment still seems to favor both closing the border now, and coming up with some sort of plan that avoids mass deportation of long-time resident, employed illegal aliens.
Liberal Apartheid of a Sort
I come up here to Stanford two or three days per week from rural central California. And I’m amazed at the de facto segregation of elite Obama country in Menlo Park and Palo Alto versus the barrio in nearby Redwood City. I think I have finally figured out the modus operandi. Everyone here is “progressive”. That means, you hire Hilda to watch your kid, Juanito to mow your lawn, or Hillario to wash your dishes at the local restaurant.
You deplore racism, or even the mere suggestion that cultures are not all inherently equal. But under no circumstances do you buy a home in Redwood City (far cheaper in fact). Nor do you put your child in any school district that draws in the Redwood City children of illegal aliens. So it is a sort of alternate universe here. From 8AM to 8PM we have an integrated world where service workers attend to the mundane needs of the Silicon Valley and Stanford elite — before going home to Redwood City and San Jose where they live and school their children out of sight, out of mind.
My gut feeling is that integration, intermarriage, and assimilation even may be going on far more slowly in progressive Palo Alto than is true of more conservative Selma and Fresno. I’m sure the sophisticated exec here can make the argument that “I’m not social engineering with my children!”, but there is something nonetheless odd about hyper-liberalism in the abstract, and 1950s segregation in the concrete.
In fact, the children of the privileged might learn about the real world in more “diverse” schools, and could be tutored at night to make up any deficiencies in the curriculum. Looking back, much of what I learned about the cosmos came from going to Eric White School in west Selma for grades 1-6 (95% Hispanic), coupled with working along side in my teens some rather rough characters from the Oklahoma Diaspora that my grandfather had hired on his small farm to irrigate and tractor-drive.
As my father told me once after a particularly vicious fight at 11 with the Galavez Brothers, “I don’t think reading all those books helps much, Vic. And it’s a problem I can’t help you with unless you learn to help yourself” And so we did, and survived and learned, and in the end were the better for it. My best friends remain those I was with all day long from 5 to 12, and then again in junior high and high school to 18, rough sorts though they were and in some cases still are. I think most of the Stanford kids I see around campus would benefit from perhaps just one summer less monitoring egrets in the estuary or working as an intern on world hunger in D.C., and one summer more mowing lawns with Lupe or hammering roof shingles with Pepe — in the last analysis the truly liberal thing, not unlike the opportunity had the Clinton or Obama children just attended for a year the D.C. public schools.
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson